Jurors Questioned, Video Evidence Review, Special Agent Due to Testify

September 11, 2016, 3:53 PM HST · Updated September 11, 6:43 PM
Wendy Osher · 0 Comments
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Judge Joseph Cardoza (6.27.16) Photo by Wendy Osher.

Judge Joseph Cardoza (6.27.16) Photo by Wendy Osher.

No testimony was heard on Friday in the ongoing murder trial of Steven Capobianco.  The court instead, took time to question jurors after an anonymous letter was received by the prosecution alleging deliberations occurred outside of court.

Jurors Questioned Over Alleged Deliberations: 

Prosecuting attorney Robert Rivera asked the court to address allegations contained in the letter that was sent to the prosecutors office.

“That’s something that is disturbing at this point, at least for the state, and we feel compelled at this point to ask that this matter be addressed as soon as possible before any other evidence or material is presented in front of the jury, especially in light of the allegations of this matter and very specific allegations made,” said Rivera.

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Rivera said it doesn’t parallel two other letters, but it was on the “same subject matter,” and “same nature,” and appeared to be from a different person that earlier communication.

“This letter is not signed with a name, other than ‘a concerned citizen’ but it does give some parts where this person is identifying himself or herself,” said Rivera.

Rivera also asked that the issue be resolved outside of the presence of extended media coverage, including video documentation.

“With all of the circumstances and the totality of all of the circumstances, the state would respectfully argue that it puts the juror in a position to maybe be less candid or forthright (and the state is not saying that they’re going to intentionally mislead) but they’re like any other human beings and they’re in a position that makes it very difficult for them under the circumstances with the extended coverage,” said Rivera.

Rivera said that one of the concerns that was shared by two of the jurors was that two of their acquaintances or friends told them they were seen on trial video, noting that the issue surfaced at the early onset of the trial when live streaming was occurring on a daily basis.

“The state is not alleging that is happening now, but because it has happened in the past,” Rivera said, he was asking the court to pursue resolution without the presence a public audience.

“There’s some specific allegations in this letter that the state believes should be asked directly to each of the jurors if they’re a part of whatever is being alleged here… The state would imagine that any defense counsel or defense team would object to continuing a trial if the jurors are alleged to have been deliberating when they’re not supposed to,” said Rivera.

Defense attorney Jon Apo agreed with the court’s recommendation saying, “We would like to flesh this out as much as the state, just to keep the record clean.”

Maui Chief Judge Joseph Cardoza has been consistent with his precautionary message to jurors following the end of proceedings each day, reminding them of the importance of their service; advising them not to read, listen to or watch anything related to the trial; telling them not to do any personal investigating relating to the case; and thanking them for their time and service.

Video Evidence Under Review:

The prosecution also discussed additional video evidence and their intent to pursue its inclusion in the trail.  Prosecuting attorney Robert Rivera said the bulk of the remaining testimony left for Detective Nelson Hamilton focuses on the video evidence in question.

Rivera said portions of the “demeanor evidence” would be on video that wasn’t turned over until July 2016.

The court sought to determine which content of the video was disclosed in 2014, and which belonged to the more recent documentation in 2016.

Specific video clips under consideration include but are not limited to the following:

1) when Capobianco shows detectives where his car was supposed to have broken down on Saturday night/early Sunday morning (Feb. 8/9, 2014);
2) when he’s asked to show where he was hitchhiking and picked up by a driver; and
3) where prosecutors say “supposedly” Charli Scott was behind Capobianco and he allegedly saw her headlights in the rear view.  Rivera said the defendant allegedly shows a certain place that may be inconsistent with prior statements.

Additional Witnesses Expected from the Prosecution:

Prosecuting attorney Rivera said he planned to call a special agent to testify in the coming week, and hoped to have stipulations on the aforementioned video resolved before proceeding with additional testimony from Detective Hamilton.

He also mentioned that there was another lay person that was still on his list to testify and remaining testimony from Maui Police Department Evidence Specialist Anthony Earls who was subject to recall after testifying last week.

Case History/Background:

Steven Capobianco is standing trial for the murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Carly “Charli” Scott.  he is also accused of setting her vehicle on fire.

Scott was 27-years-old and five months pregnant at the time with an unborn child fathered by the defendant.  Capobianco has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In the days following Charli Scott’s disappearance, Capobianco had done an interview with police in which he said Scott had picked him up on the night of Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, and dropped him off at his truck that got stuck in Keʻanae on Feb. 8, 2014.

According to the account, both headed back to Haʻikū, with Scott following Capobianco in case his vehicle broke down again.  Scott was reported missing the next night on Feb. 10, 2014, after she failed to show up for work and did not return phone calls and messages from her family members.

In testimony last week, a Maui orthodontist confirmed that a jawbone found at Nuaʻailua in East Maui was a “match” to the missing woman.

The trial is set to resume on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016 before Maui Chief Judge Joseph Cardoza.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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